Shellac

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term universally used to indicate the ratio of shellac to alcohol. It means that 3, 4, or 5 lbs. of shellac flakes are dissolved in 1 gal. of alcohol. The higher the number of the cut, the more concentrated the shellac and the "thicker" or more viscous the solution. For example, you are getting twice as much actual shellac in a quart of 4-lb. cut solution than you are in a quart of 2-lb. cut solution.

About 6 months after it's dissolved, shellac loses its capacity to dry hard. Old shellac will remain gummy

Refined shellac is orange in color and wil add a warn tone to wood. White sheHac is bleached for use on blonde, or bleached wood.

When mixing your own shellac, there's no need to weigh the flakes on a scale. Just eyeball the amount you need from the container.

Strain the sheHac solution to remove any impurities and undissolved shelac.

When mixing your own shellac, there's no need to weigh the flakes on a scale. Just eyeball the amount you need from the container.

Strain the sheHac solution to remove any impurities and undissolved shelac.

forever. The only recourse, if you apply shellac that won't dry, is to strip it off with alcohol and start over. Store-bought premixed shellac should carry a date of manufacture, or an expiration date, just like milk docs. If in doubt about the freshness, open the can and test the shellac on a scrap piece of wood.

Shellac is orange in color, and it will add a warm tone to the wood. This can be used to advantage on dark woods such as walnut, which has a rather cold charcoal-gray color. But adding this orange color to blonde or bleached woods could be self-defeating, so shellac is also sold in bleached form, which is sometimes called "white" or "blonde" shellac. There is no difference in the way orange and white shellac arc used, but white shellac generally has a shorter shelf life.

To make your own shellac solution, dissolve shellac flakes in alcohol using any type of container except metal. (I use quart jars.) It's not critical what type of alcohol you use, but I prefer denatured alcohol (grain alcohol) because it's not as toxic as methyl alcohol (wood alcohol), and it dries slower, giving you a little more time to brush the shellac out. Figure the proportion of shellac flakes to alcohol by what pound cut you want. For instance, 1 lb. of flakes dissolved in 1 qt. of alcohol will give you a 4-lb. cut— not a bad solution to begin with. A quart of 4-lb. cut shellac is enough to coat a large piece of furniture several times over.

There's no need to weigh out the shellac flakes on a scale—measuring by eye is close enough. Half of a 1-lb. container is about {h lb., etc. Once you've added the shellac flakes to the alcohol, or vice versa, be sure to stir or shake the container regularly so that the flakes don't solidify into a lump at the bottom. Keep the container closed as much as possible because alcohol will absorb moisture from the air, which could cause your shellac to appear cloudy when applied.

When the flakes are completely dissolved (this may take an hour or two), strain the solution through a paint strainer or cheese cloth to remove any impurities and undissolved residue.

To apply a brushed shellac finish, begin by brushing a diluted sealer coat (about yh- to 1-lb. cut) onto new or stripped wood. For the sealer coat, thin your 4-lb. cut shellac solution at the ratio of five to eight parts alcohol to one part of 4-lb. cut shellac. (The actual amounts are not critical —this is only a guide.) This diluted solution is thin enough to give good penetration but thick enough to totally clog the pores of the wood, which is the purpose of the sealer coat.

This sealer coat will also lock in place all the raised wood fibers left from sanding or machining. After the sealer coat dries, a light scuff sanding with 280-grit or finer sandpaper will cut off these fibers. Sand in the grain direction just enough to make the surface feel smooth to the touch. Any more does no good and risks sanding through the coating. Worn sandpaper is safest.

Within an hour or two you should be able to begin brushing on the top coats. For these, you'll want to use a thicker solution. What cut you use is a matter of personal preference, but the thinner the shellac, the easier it will be to apply without leaving heavy brush marks. The thicker the shellac, the faster the finish will build. I know finishers who use the I-lb. cut for roNTTVi rnoNPAr.F 4fi

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